I took my time about going to see Charlie Chaplin’s film The Gold Rush because the music played in the theater where it is shown is so horrible. But finally the despondency over it which seems to have gripped all the theater people of my acquaintance prodded me to take that step. I find their despondency justified.
I do not hold the view that what is done in the film cannot be done in the contemporary theater due to the latter’s inherent shortcomings. I think that, without Charlie Chaplin, it cannot be done in the theater nor in the cabaret nor in the movies. This artist is a document which already qualifies as a historical event. From the point of view of thought content, however, The Gold Rush would be hopelessly inadequate for the stage and insufficient to satisfy a theatrical audience. To be sure, there is a certain charm in seeing how in such young art media as the film the indulgence in certain personal experiences has not yet been replaced by a dramaturgy with the experience of a seasoned whore.
Suffering from amnesia, Big Jim, unable to find his gold mine, meets Charlie, the only man who could show it to him, and each passes the other indifferently; here we have an occurrence which, on the stage, would permanently destroy an audience’s faith in the author’s ability to manipulate events.
The film has no responsibility; it does not have to strain itself. Its dramaturgy remains uncomplicated simply because the product is nothing but a few thousand yards of celluloid in a tin box. Don’t expect a fugue from a saw which a man is bending between his knees.
Today, the film no longer offers technical problems. The techniques it has developed cover up these problems successfully. It is rather the theater which is presently facing technical difficulties. . . .
From Bertolt Brecht, Schriften zum Theater (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp-Verlag, 1963), II, by permission of the publisher. Translated by Ulrich Weisstein. Translation copyright 1972 by Stefan Brecht.